Italian renewables company Enel Green Power announced today that it’s partnering with Scottish startup ACT Blade, which uses fabric in its wind turbine blades.

Fabric wind turbine blades

Enel Green Power explains the technology of ACT Blade’s wind turbine blades. It incorporates textiles that are similar to what boat sails are made of:

First of all, the turbine blades are lighter because they have a slender supporting structure made of composite material that is completely covered with the technical fabric. The new blades with the same weight as conventional ones are longer and therefore ensure an increased production of electricity. In addition, the costs are lower thanks to other features, such as a structure that is composed of fewer materials in relation to its length, as well as modular production processes that are simpler and more streamlined, leading to expected savings of up to 17%.

ACT Blade’s technology fits perfectly with Enel’s strategy for the circular management of wind farms: maximizing the reuse and recycling of materials and components and applying a circular perspective right from the design phase. In general, the recycling of metals (which make up the majority of a wind turbine) is quite straightforward, while the composite materials used to make up the rotor blades is more complex. So this technology is an interesting option in order to make wind power even more circular and sustainable.

The fact that ACT’s blades don’t erode and can be recycled is what piqued Enel Green Energy’s interest, because it’s keen on recycling and reusing wind turbine materials and components in a cost-efficient manner.

Nicola Rossi, head of innovation global power generation at Enel Green Energy, explains:

We’re constantly looking for innovative solutions that can improve performance and sustainability, starting with the materials used and their life cycles. For this reason, ACT Blade’s technology is extremely interesting for us. We’re collaborating with ACT because we want to support the testing of their product in real environments, and accelerate the startup’s growth and market entry

Check out ACT Blade’s video below, which gives an overview of its wind turbine blades:

ACT’s blades are actually already being tested in Glasgow. Sabrina Malpede, a cofounder and CEO of ACT Blade, used to be a competitive sailor, and she applied what she learned in her sport to the startup’s wind turbines. She explains:

In July we achieved an important milestone with the installation of three blades, ACT27s, on a wind turbine at Myres Hill [Glasgow, UK] – not only demonstrating the structural integrity of ACT blades, but also their operational performance.

Now we’re working on developing our first blade product, so the collaboration with Enel Green Power is of great value to us, ensuring we keep our focus on the end user, which is fundamental in this phase of development and in terms of the future commercialization of our technology as well.

Electrek’s Take

ACT Blade’s fabric wind turbine blade was clearly compelling enough to catch Enel Green Power’s eye. Will its blades become a commercial success and revolutionize the wind power industry? We’ll see. Every breakthrough in clean energy benefits everyone, and it’s better to try and fail than not try at all.

Whenever a new prototype emerges, a lot of scoffing inevitably follows. Many startups don’t make it, but some grab the brass ring.

Without risk takers, we’d never innovate. People mocked Thomas Edison, too. In 1878, the New York Times said Edison was going to bring about “the destruction of human society” – for inventing the phonograph.

Read more: Sweden’s Vattenfall commits to wind turbine blade landfill ban

Photo: Enel Green Power


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